Osteoporosis drugs may help prevent breast cancer
British Journal of Cancer Press Release
A drug commonly used to prevent and treat bones losing density and becoming
brittle known as osteoporosis may also help reduce the risk
of breast cancer by one third or more according to new research published in
the British Journal of Cancer.
Researchers found that the women who used the drug for the longest period
two years or more reduced their breast cancer risk by almost 40%. The
effect was present only in women who were not obese.
Nearly 3,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer were interviewed and had their
records compared with around 3,000 women who did not have breast cancer. The
researchers recorded how many women had used the osteoporosis drugs
known as bisphosphonates and for how long.
Dr Polly Newcomb of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle,
Washington, USA, led the study, which was funded by the US National Institutes
of Health. Dr Newcomb said:
These medications inhibit the growth of many cell types, and
this large study suggests that the development of breast tumours may also
Earlier studies have shown a reduction in breast cancer recurrence in women
receiving a bisphosphonate as part of their therapy. Research has yet to show
exactly how they might reduce breast cancer risk.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UKs cancer information director, said:
" This is an interesting result but important questions remain about
using this type of drug to help reduce breast cancer risk. Its important
that researchers find out more about how these drugs act on cancer cells and
whether the drug is only appropriate for certain women. All drugs have potential
side effects and before any drug can be recommended to prevent or treat a
disease thorough testing needs to be completed."
Professor Jack Cuzick, Cancer Research UK's epidemiologist who leads a breast
cancer prevention trial named IBIS-2, said:
This is an interesting finding which has been previously suggested
by breast cancer treatment trials where recurrence rates have been reduced
with bisphosphonate use. These findings now need to be confirmed with direct
randomised prevention trials in high risk women.
We have begun this in our breast cancer prevention trial in post menopausal
women. This focuses on using a drug that stops oestrogen being produced, with
a small bone sub-study using a bisphosphonate. Larger studies will be needed
to fully evaluate the role of a bisphosphonate in prevention.